Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Art Museum Tour: Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Where to even begin?  Daily Vacationer faced this problem when we visited, and now we face it again as we try to think of a way to tell our readers just how incredible this place is.  With over 200 galleries and more than 227,000 pieces the PMA is an impressive collection of American, European, and Asian art of both historical and modern significance all kept within an equally impressive, enormously scaled Greek Revival building.  A visitor can spend hours just taking in the sculptures and views of the Schuylkill River and Fairmount Park from the West Entrance and the "Rocky Steps" and views of Eakins Oval, the Parkway Museums District, and City Hall from the East Entrance.
Even if you park in the parking garage on the West Entrance, do yourself a favor and start your tour of the PMA through the East Entrance.  On entering the Museum from this direction, visitors get a breathtaking view of the Great Stair Hall with the famous Diana sculpture prominently displayed at the top of the steps (right now covered by an equally impressive 40-ft Buddhist banner from 1653).  Time to break out the camera! (Visitors are allowed non-flash photography throughout the Museum except for special exhibits.)
The Museum is broken up into three floors (Ground, 1st, and 2nd, according to the maps) with the majority of the artwork located on the 1st and 2nd floors off the Great Stair Hall.  On the Ground floor, visitors can visit the Cafeteria, the Granite Hill Restaurant, the Main Museum Store, and leave their belongings with Complimentary Coat Check.  While you're down there, keep your eyes open for a couple of extra galleries of artwork.
The 1st floor is where one can find the Special Exhibitions (such as Treasures from Korea until May 26th), American Art, European Art from 1850-1900, Modern and Contemporary Art, as well as Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.  Additional Museum Shops and the Balcony Cafe are also located on the 1st floor.  On the 2nd floor (after snapping a billion more photos of the Great Stair Hall from a new vantage point), one can view Asian Art, European Art from 1100-1850, with a little bit of textiles and American Art, and the Arms and Armor galleries.  The galleries on the 2nd floor are like stepping back in time and around the world as you don't just walk around art but through it in the form of Asian teahouse gardens and temples, stone courtyards and churches, ancient wooden doors, and endless galleries of exquisite parlors and drawing rooms.
Definitely try to make it through as many galleries as possible with your camera and a notebook handy.  One minute you realize you're looking at real live Monet or Picasso and the next you're feverishly jotting down the name of an artist you've never heard of before but has just blown you away.  When all the artwork begins to look the same, it's time to stop for  lunch.  And if you run out of time to get to every place you wanted or to go back to see works that just stopped you in your tracks the first time, we'll let you in on a little secret: Your ticket is good for TOMORROW! Yes, it's true! Admission to the PMA is good for two days in a row!
General Admission (Adults: $20, Seniors: $18, Students and Youth: $14, and 12 and under: FREE) gets you into the Main Building, the Perelman Building across the street, and the Rodin Museum for two consectutive days.   There is a complimentary shuttle service from the Main Building's West Entrance to the Rodin Museum.  You can also visit the Rodin Museum by itself with Pay What You Wish Admission from Wednesday-Monday, 10:00am to 5:00pm  The Main and Perelman Buildings are opened Tuesday-Sunday from 10:00am to 5:00pm with special exhibits on Friday nights and Pay What You Wish on Wednesday nights at the Main Building from 5:00pm to 8:45pm.  The first Sunday in every month is also Pay What You Wish Admssion.  Special Exhibits are not included in General Admission.

Consider becoming a member of the Philadelphia Art Museum to experience all it has to offer year-round.  Enjoy discounts on parking, special programs, tours, and dining, as well as unlimited FREE access to all three buildings and the Art After 5 live music programs on Friday nights.  An Individual Level membership is only $70 and the Ambassador Level and above gets you in for FREE to over 50 other museums.  Memberships also make fantastic gifts for any occasion.


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  1. Hands down, I love the Modern Art Gallery. My absolute fav piece - the sink with the hairy legs sticking out of the wall. Maybe that's why I love Kelly Brown so much!

  2. We are so fortunate to have such an epic museum in our backyard.

  3. I've never taken my kids and haven't been in 20 years! Adding this to our local must do list ! Thanks

  4. As a former New Yorker, the museums are the thing I miss the most! We've not had great luck bringing the kiddos to museums in the past, but I wonder if it's time to try again? Amelia loves 1803 House, which is a period museum. Thanks for sharing!

  5. THIS has been on my mind - I haven't been to the PAM since I had my kids. I think they are old enough now to appreciate it - thanks for the reminder and the excitement I just got at the thought!

  6. This has been on my list of places to take my daughter to for years! Now I just need to get there! What a great article about navigating around. THANK YOU!

  7. I've never been! It's one of the things on my list though

  8. It's been so long since I've been, and even then, it was with students... I need to visit again soon!